Liner Notes


VRCD 344, VRCS 344

Howard Marshall and John Williams, fiddles

Michael Breid, guitar

As my old chum and fiddling mentor Taylor McBaine (1910-1994) used to say, "Fiddling -- that's my pan of berries!" So it is, and this sampler reflects my lifelong love of fiddle people and the music they make. Here are tunes played in the historic Little Dixie cultural and geographic region of northeast Missouri where young Williams and I hail from. Though some can be found in books, all these tunes are essentially kitchen music and circulate in oral tradition, going their awkward path from one fiddler to another.

Fiddlers appreciate good backup. In the old days, in our area the cello (playing low chords) was common, as were the string bass and banjos both four-string and five. In the 1920s my dad Charles played drums in the family band because his older sisters had already claimed the violins, piano, and banjo. Taylor McBaine's Boone County square dance band in the 1930s included violin, guitar, tenor banjo, piano, and occasionally drums. Pete McMahan won his first big contest in Columbia in 1945 (playing Zig Zag and Money Musk) and his backups were Eileen Thornton on piano and her husband Herb on tenor banjo, and in the 1950s Pete's band included a saxophone and drums as well as guitar, piano and his violin. We have become narrow in what we expect for backup, and I urge all the younger fiddlers out there to play with any accompaniment you can get hold of. On this record, we offer some different backup possibilities, especially "second fiddle" (which is great fun to play) and we hope you enjoy it.

This album owes its existence to the support of my wife, Margot Ford McMillen, who managed to get John, Michael, and me into the studio to make this portrait of Missouri fiddling at the tail end of the 20th century. We hope the project has more the mood of a house party than of a performance. We had fun in the recording and feel that we're placing ourselves into our own community's fiddle traditions, sort of filling in a page of the family album.

Howard (Rusty) Marshall. I live on a farm in Callaway County. Like a lot of people, I have a good job in town (I'm an art history professor at the University of Missouri), while helping work our cattle and hay operation in my spare time. I was born in August 1944 in Moberly in Randolph County. Our farm, laid out by a great-great-grandfather, was east of Moberly on Elk Fork in the old Milton community. There have been fiddlers in our family since they came from Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky in the 1830s. My earliest memories of fiddle music are of my grandfather and grandmother Marshall playing violin and piano in the front parlor at the farm in the 1940s and that picture in my mind has always warmed me and made me want to play this music. Later on, of the many fiddlers who influenced me, I benefitted most from the friendship of Taylor McBaine, Johnny Bruce, Nile Wilson, and Pete McMahan. I won't say I'm self-taught, but I never had violin lessons or classes as a child because I came along before the big fiddling revival and at a time when local fiddling went through a crisis stage where towns like mine had no teachers and precious little interest in our own traditional music. I learned a lot in 1973 when I lived in Nashville and stood backstage at the Grand Ole Opry watching Howdy Forester. I picked up ideas from a variety of fiddlers at the Smithsonian's summer festivals in the early 1970s and then when I worked at a museum in Indiana and then at the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress before going to Kansas State University in 1981 and then to Missouri in 1982. I participate in fiddle contests (entering some, judging some), square dances, jam sessions, I write amateur pieces on fiddling history, teach fiddle individually and at fiddle camps, and I like doing programs on fiddle history (many of them with Mr. Williams).

The violin I play on this project was made in 1918 by a German-American maker in Chicago; the bow says "Mathias Albani" and was handed down from my grandfather Wiley Marshall via my fiddling aunt Maud Marshall Stevenson. On Bonaparte's Retreat I play the violin my grandfather Marshall inadvertently obtained from a horse thief one night in about 1900 (but that's another story). On several tunes where we feature John solo, I play in a style called frailing on a Vega Tubaphone five-string banjo with a fine neck made by Wyatt Fawley; on one tune I play in a pre-Scruggs finger-picking style I learned from Lena Jones Hughes here in north Missouri.

John (Doogie) Williams was born March 31, 1982 and lives on the family farm in rural Monroe County near Madison. He is a junior in high school at Madison C-3 and among the best of the talented young people carrying on the great fiddle heritage of the state of Missouri. His first inspiration to play the violin was from his maternal grandmother, Charlotte Winfree Utterback (Paris) and then later his maternal great-grandfather, Henry Utterback (Middle Grove). He started to take formal violin lessons at the age of seven, but soon started looking for chances to learn fiddle the way his grandmother plays. He attended the fiddle camps at Bethel and learned from instructors like Pete McMahan, Taylor McBaine, Johnny Bruce, Vesta Johnson, Bob Holt, Dwight Lamb, Herman Johnson, and others. His violin teacher in Moberly (Emily Bowers) helped him play his first tunes, and he began entering fiddle contests around Missouri. He says what really inspired him was "these older gentlemen who could play for three or four hours and never play the same tune twice."

In 1998, John says he had "the once in a lifetime chance" to study with Pete McMahan in Missouri's Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program. McMahan has been a huge influence and "a huge idol" for John, and he learned a good deal of Pete's amazing technique and many of his rare tunes. Doogie now is winning more and more prizes in contests, including first in the Mid-America Old-Time Fiddle Championships (Bethel) and the Missouri State Traditional Fiddle Contest (Fulton). McMahan says John is one of the few young fiddlers to catch his phrasing and bowing -- the key to McMahan's legendary style. Lately John has learned some tunes from me, and, believe me friends, the lad's a quick study.

John's violin was made by the late Jim Gilmore of Jefferson City, and he acquired his bow from me, a few years after I acquired it from Pete.

Arkansas Red a.k.a. Michael Breid (b. Sept. 18, 1944, Kansas City, Missouri) has been a lifelong collector of traditional music and song and has entertained audiences throughout the United States and several foreign countries. It all started when he met singer May Kennedy McCord, who lived down the street when Breid lived in Springfield. He used to go by and tape her singing, and she taught him to appreciate the "old songs." His performances feature five-string banjo, guitar, and various other instruments.

On this project, Michael plays a Martin Shenandoah guitar, Vega Tubaphone long-neck banjo, and a German melodeon.

1. Evansville Missouri (G) An old tune of local descent. Just inside Monroe County on the Randolph County line, the place is between the Marshall farm where I was born and the farm where Doogie Williams and his folks live. My friend John T. White, who grew up north of there in Shelby County, learned it from "old man Dalton" (Charlie Dalton) and I can't remember where I first heard it. We often play this at dances. Evansville shows up on old maps but there is nothing much left to testify to its short life; like many another late 19th century town, the railroad got it started and then left it high and dry.

2. Ragtime Annie (D) From my hero and friend Taylor McBaine (Columbia), Wiley Marshall (Moberly), Art Galbraith (Springfield), Johnny Bruce (Bosworth), and a worn-out 1960s Tommy Jackson LP record. This evergreen of American origin is popular all across Missouri. We use the third part in G that Taylor liked and many Missouri fiddlers put in. Some call it Raggedy Ann.

3. Stars and Stripes Waltz (C, Howard) Attributed to Vee Latty of Fulton, who made several fine waltzes and played in fiddle contests from the 1920s to the 1950s. Mr. Latty's wife accompanied Vee on resophonic slide guitar and Guy Craighead played tenor guitar -- an unusual combo by late 20th century standards. Boone County fiddler Daniel Boone Jones (Stephens) is said to have learned it from Latty in the 1930s; Pete McMahan learned it c. 1950 from George Morris, who got it from Tony Gilmore of Jefferson City (who got it from Latty). I got it from Pete and the legendary Charlie Walden.

4. Granny Will Your Dog Bite? (A, Howard lead) This old song makes a good fiddlin' piece. Cyril Stinnett and Dwight Lamb have fine settings. Nile Wilson plays a "chorded up" version (AEAE) of a tune his folks called Old Coon Dog that is a first cousin of Granny. People tell me this sounds "Irish," but Andrew Kuntz says in "The Fiddler's Companion" (, it has no apparent British antecedent. About all the words I can remember are "Granny will your dog bite, no child no -- daddy cut his biter off a long time ago." I learned it from a 1960s tape of the late Cleo Persinger, a champion contest fiddler from Columbia, a 1950s recording of Bob Walters, and Cyril in the 1980s.

5. Hooker's Hornpipe (G, Howard) A north Missouri breakdown-hornpipe used to good effect in fiddle contests by Taylor McBaine. I learned it from Taylor and Jimmy Gilmore of Jefferson City. Contest champion Travis Inman of Springfield plays a fine rendition based on Taylor's, as did the late Lyman Enloe of Lee's Summit. Your guess is as good as mine as to the ultimate origin of the title, and there are gobs of possibilities, including the slang term hooker for laborers on river boats, petty thieves and pickpockets, one-masted Irish and English fishing boats, loggers who fasten hooks and cables, makers of hooked rugs, excessive users of alcohol, and (my favorite), unruly cows.

6. Grey Eagle (A, Howard banjo) This old Scottish hornpipe in American mountings is played today both in the conservative traditional style and in the Texas or progressive contest style. John plays it largely the way Pete McMahan taught him, but it is good to know that Pete learned some of his version listening to Texas Shorty (Jim Chancellor) at Weiser and elsewhere in the 1960s; Chancellor called it Golden Zephyr, Pete says. We like the older style and John does a great job of getting a lot of Pete's accent and phrasing in this big Missouri tune. This is one of the more prominent fiddle tunes that could rightly be called contest pieces or exhibition pieces, and I'm told it was among President Thomas Jefferson's favorite fiddle tunes in Virginia (from whence came many ancestors of us Missourians).

7. Burt County Breakdown (A, Howard "Lena Hughes style" banjo) From a Bob Walters recording, Cyril, Pete, Charlie, and Dwight Lamb; Pete learned it from Dwight at one of the Bethel Fiddle Camps in the 1980s. Burt County, where Walters lived, is in eastern Nebraska across the Missouri River from Iowa. John has this from Pete.

8. Haste to the Wedding (D, Howard) An English, Irish, Scotch-Irish, and Scottish 6/8 jig going back at least to 1767 in Britain. I remember it from childhood and later stole bits of it from Bill Creson (Yates), Nile Wilson (Bucklin), Taylor McBaine, Johnny Bruce, and latterly from Pete McMahan. Just two jigs are still commonly played in my part of Missouri; yes, the other one is Irish Washerwoman.

9. Middle Grove (G) Frank Reed (1904-c. 1985) was a fine old time fiddler from our area (Huntsville-Moberly-Madison) and played this tune, named after a small farming community a few miles east of Moberly. Reed spent his later years in the St. Louis area, where he was recorded (with banjo player Alva Lee Hendren of Madison) by The Missouri Friends of Folk Arts for their 1981 LP I'm Old But I'm Awfully Tough; Reed also made a private label LP in 1976, Ole Tyme Fiddlin'. It is likely Frank learned Middle Grove from fiddler Clate "Peggy" Ransdell of Moberly or black fiddler Walt Dougherty of Higbee. In our part of Missouri, once a slave-holding region culturally like bluegrass Kentucky or the Virginia and North Carolina tidewater and piedmont, it was common for white and black musicians to play fiddle music together at house dances or fish fries, but this kind of interchange between black and white vanished in recent years. Reed also played banjo in a variant of frailing or clawhammer style familiar among Little Dixie musicians of Kentucky stock.

10. Fiddler's Hoedown (D, Howard; Michael banjo) From Pete and Taylor, who remembered the occasion behind the older names of the tune, commemorating the lynching of a black man in Columbia in the 1920's at the old wooden Stewart Road bridge that carried traffic over the KATY railroad tracks. Bob Christeson has it in one of his tune books under the pseudonym The Dead Slave. Pete learned it from Otto Griggs of Columbia.

11. Thunderbolt Hornpipe (B-flat, Howard) We play in the flat keys, in part due to community bands in former times (featuring brass instruments) developed by German-speaking immigrant music masters like Moberly's John (Johannes) Goetze, who gave violin lessons to my grandfather Marshall (and my father and several other family members) around 1895-1925. I learned Thunderbolt from a 1950s recording by Bob Walters and later from Cyril Stinnett, Jake Hockemeyer (Mokane), and Dwight Lamb. Pete McMahan plays a version he got from George Morris (Columbia). There are other hornpipes cut from the same cloth, Thunder Hornpipe, Lightning Hornpipe, and, you guessed it, Thunder and Lightning Hornpipe.

12. Wilson's Clog (D, Howard) A schottische sometimes going under the title Billy Wilson's Clog and sometimes Harvest Home. I learned it from an old tape I received from collector and fox hunter Jake Hughes (Lena's husband) in the 1970s with the playing of fiddler Casey Jones (Jake Hughes's brother-in-law), who played over radio shows sponsored by the Henry Field Seed Company in Shenandoah, Iowa.

13. Sugar in the Gourd (A, Howard banjo) From Pete McMahan, Taylor McBaine, and others in Little Dixie, a fine square dance tune.

14. Tiehacker Hoedown (C, Howard banjo) From our good friend Nile Wilson of Bucklin, who plays great dance tunes in C, many of them tunes his father Dolph taught him. In the 1920s, Nile played over WOS radio, beamed live from the dome of the state capitol in Jeff City. He won the first fiddle contest he entered, in LaPlata in 1912 ($5.00). He lost the tips of fingers on his left hand in a corn shredder accident in the cold winter of 1930 and he says he hasn't played well since (we beg to disagree with that, Nile). Tiehackers were itinerant gangs of Irish (many Scotch-Irish) laborers who followed the construction of the railroads across north Missouri after the Civil War; they lived in camps in the white oak woods and hewed railroad ties. At night they were liable to engage in long sessions of fiddle music, from which come tunes played by Mr. Wilson as handed down to him by his grandfather Robe Wilson and his father Dolph.

15. Soldier's Joy (D) One of the fine old tunes we inherit from British settlers in the American colonies. We mount it in the manner of older Little Dixie fiddlers while maintaining the drive, and I play some second fiddle while Michael does the knee slaps. From Wiley Marshall (Renick, d. 1954) and many others.

16. Goodnight Waltz (C and F, Howard) A stately old Southern waltz I learned from Charlie Walden, Paul Shikles (Russellville), and to some extent also Taylor McBaine and Pete McMahan.

17. Red Wing (G) The first time through, we play the melody together, and after that I play some harmony. A Tin Pan Alley tune written by Kerry Mills (who was also responsible for Whistling Rufus) and published in 1907, workable both as a two-step and a hoedown. It's a chestnut worthy of being heard and offers some latitude for twin fiddling as well as seconding. One of my grandfather Marshall's favorite tunes; he played all sorts of music from hymns to hoedowns to light classical pieces.

18. Pretty Polly (AEAC#, John lead) The violin is made to sound like bagpipes by retuning strings to create a full and slightly dissonant "chorded fiddle." Some call this cross-tuning or discord but they called it "chording the fiddle" when I was young. Since chorded fiddle is banned from contests and therefore few learn the technique, few do it. This is the last tune Pete McMahan was able to teach John before Pete had to stop playing, and John gets a good scald on it. Pete learned to play as a child in chorded tunings and got Pretty Polly and many other tunes from his early mentor, Clark Atterbury (Rhineland) as well as from George Morris.

19. Old Dubuque (D, Howard) On home recordings of the great Casey Jones and Nebraska fiddler Bob Walters. I learned it from Art Galbraith in the 1960s. Tom Verdot says it traces back to an 1840s minstrel tune Coonie in the Holler, and may bear some kinship with a tune the contest fiddlers play called Apple Blossom. Dubuque is a river port on the Mississippi in eastern Iowa.

20. Waltz of Erin (F, Howard) Most of us know the tune as an old song called Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms. I heard it played in F on visits to box and fiddle clubs in Scotland and we like it in that key.

21. Hal Scott's Special (C) Another dance tune from Nile Wilson. Scott was a local fiddler and friend of Nile's father Dolph; Dolph and yet another good Linn County fiddling friend Wes Bailey named the tune for Scott, from whom they learned it.

22. Fisher's Hornpipe (F), Coming Down from Denver (A, Howard) Fisher's is a favorite across North America and goes back to the 18th century. Most play it in D and there is debate over the original key for it; champion fiddler Kelly Jones (Stover) has an old setting in D in his collection of sheet music. I'm told early printings in F exist also. Margot thought Coming Down from Denver would make an interesting addition. We don't play many medleys in Little Dixie and almost never outside the square and contra dance context. Fisher's is from Jake Hockemeyer, whose perfect setting was smooth as a ribbon yet contained great drive, from Kelly, and a 1960s home recording of the great hornpipe fiddler from Brown's Station (Boone County), Ed Tharp. Coming Down from Denver is a hornpipe from Jake, Taylor, Cyril, Johnny Bruce, and a Tommy Jackson record (as Here and There).

23. Talk to Dinah (A) A square dance tune from Claude Stearns and Charlie Jackson (both of Franklin) via Pete McMahan. Pete says Stearns and Jackson were the only fiddlers who played this in the old days and Pete put it on one of his private label Missouri Fiddling Lps in the 1970s.

24. Oak Ridge Stomp (G, Howard) Another fine breakdown from Nile Wilson, the title referring to the white oak woods in Linn County where itinerant crews of Irishmen hewed railroad ties in the latter 19th century.

25. Bonaparte's Retreat (DADD, Howard lead, Michael melodeon) A bagpipe tune probably of Irish origin but supposedly composed by a Scots piper to commemorate English Gen. Wellington's victory over Napoleon's army at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815. A number of French soldiers came over and settled in central Missouri after fighting with Napoleon (perhaps relating to Missouri's oldest identity as the property of France). The bagpipe holds mythical appeal for some Americans of Celtic stock. Others find the bagpipe, introduced into the British Isles by Roman soldiers 2,000 years ago, to be a hound from Hades designed to torture folk. The tune often starts out as a slow march and then quickens in tempo and ornament. I learned the tune from Audrain County fiddler Warren Elliott in 1967 but I remember it on the radio in the 1950s, probably by Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, when it had words and a Texas swing setting.

26. Carroll County Blues (D, John lead) From my old friend Johnny Bruce, a two-step that became identified with Johnny through his countless splendid repetitions at dances all over north Missouri. It was recorded commercially by a Mississippi string band in the 1920s; Missourian Lonnie Robertson put it on one of his 45 rpm records in the 1970s.

27. Flowers of Edinburgh (G, Howard) This was one of Art Galbraith's signature pieces, passed down by generations of Galbraith fiddlers going back to c. 1840 in the Springfield area. Printed versions exist as far back as 1742. I learned it in Art and Margaret's kitchen in 1968, and Michael Breid was there to provide the kind of backup guitar Galbraith relished.

28. Art Galbraith's Peekaboo Waltz (G, Howard) A rendition from Art and another tune I learned at his house in 1960s kitchen fiddle sessions with Michael and banjoist Doug DeMaire (Wood River, IL).

29. Oklahoma Red Bird (B-flat) From Lyman Enloe, Cyril, Charlie, and Pete.

30. Hell Amongst the Yearlings (D, Howard banjo) John has a fine setting of this, sometimes called Trouble Among the Yearlings or Devil Among the Yearlings, from Pete and Charlie. We retain the old extra beat in the first section.

31. Over the Waves (G, Howard) An old favorite in my family. I learned it from my grandparents Wiley and Dora Lee Bradley Marshall (he, violin, she, piano) in the 40s and early 50s at the farm, and from Taylor McBaine. Wherever I've played this waltz, from England to California, people know it. It stems from Mexican composer Juventino Rosas' 1891 melody that worked its way deep into the folk repertoire.

32. Happy Jack (C, Howard banjo) Known as a George Morris piece. Morris was "The Fiddling Sheriff," a local radio and contest fiddler (never really a sheriff) who influenced Pete McMahan, Taylor McBaine, Jake Hockemeyer and many others in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. Morris was a fierce contest fiddler who was seldom bested and played lots of hornpipes in flat keys; they used to say that "If George doesn't win, it's crooked." Morris was "perhaps the most influential mid-Missouri fiddler of the 20th century," according to Charlie Walden. From Pete and Charlie.

33. Marmaduke's Hornpipe (D) Michael calls a little bit to give a taste of the purpose behind this kind of music. No session in Missouri is complete without someone taking a stab at Marmaduke's. Oral tradition says it is named for Confederate Gen. John S. Marmaduke, from a dynasty of Little Dixie tobacco and hemp farmers, slave holders, and politicians. He's famous for helping lose the Battle of Boonville in June 1862, a small but key skirmish that gave the Federals control of the Missouri River when the outgunned, outnumbered Rebels beat a disorganized rapid retreat. Marmaduke's father M. M. had been Missouri governor before the war, and John S. was voted into the same chair after Reconstruction. From Taylor McBaine, with patches from Johnny Bruce and the awesome Jake Hockemeyer of Mokane. Popularized by Daniel Boone Jones in the early 20th century (many fiddlers, like Taylor, just called it Dan Jones).

34. Muddy Road to Moberly (A, Howard) A tune I recall from childhood well before I learned to play the violin. About 1975, I named the tune for my hometown because I didn't know the real name. It was known as an old Civil War tune and probably brought back by Confederate soldiers after the Battle of Shiloh; the men were encamped near the battle site at a place called Ducktown. I have been told the original title, played in Tennessee, is Muddy Road to Ducktown.

Notes by Howard Marshall.

Produced by Phil and Vivian Williams and Howard Marshall.

Recorded and engineered by Ted Snow in Studio B, Deer Park Studios, Eureka Springs, Arkansas, January 18, 1999.

Mastered by Phil Williams, Voyager Recordings.

Production assistance: Sandy Marshall, John Williams, Margot Ford McMillen.

DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF my grandparents Wiley D. and Dora Lee Bradley Marshall; to Taylor McBaine and Johnny Bruce for inspiring me to play the fiddle instead of just talking about it; and to the memory of other departed local fiddlers, Bill Creson, Bob Christeson, Art Galbraith, Jake Hockemeyer, Cleo Persinger, and Frank Reed, whose creative spirits and music live on.

© 1999 Voyager Recordings, 424 35th Avenue, Seattle WA 98122

Traditional fiddle tunes from Little Dixie, the mother lode of Missouri fiddling:

1. Evansville Missouri [1:57]

2. Ragtime Annie [2:21]

3. Stars and Stripes Waltz [2:19]

4. Granny Will Your Dog Bite? [2:19]

5. Hooker's Hornpipe [1:15]

6. Grey Eagle [2:01]

7. Burt County Breakdown [1:16]

8. Haste to the Wedding [1:10]

9. Middle Grove [1:22]

10. Fiddler's Hoedown [1:41]

11. Thunderbolt Hornpipe [1:28]

12. Wilson's Clog [2:28]

13. Sugar in the Gourd [1:43]

14. Tiehacker Hoedown [1:28]

15. Soldier's Joy [1:46]

16. Goodnight Waltz [2:12]

17. Red Wing [1:59]

18. Pretty Polly [1:41]

19. Old Dubuque [2:39]

20. Waltz of Erin [2:02]

21. Hal Scott's Special [2:49]

22. Fisher's Hornpipe, Coming Down from Denver [1:55]

23. Talk to Dinah [1:28]

24. Oak Ridge Stomp [1:24]

25. Bonaparte's Retreat [1:53]

26. Carroll County Blues [1:39]

27. Flowers of Edinburgh [3:26]

28. Art Galbraith's Peekaboo Waltz [2:24]

29. Oklahoma Red Bird [1:26]

30. Hell Amongst the Yearlings [1:26]

31. Over the Waves [2:57]

32. Happy Jack [1:51]

33. Marmaduke's Hornpipe [1:21]

34. Muddy Road to Moberly [2:21]

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